Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

United States begins a new war, what happens to Afghanistan?

March 21, 2011


The United States has said the scope of its military intervention in Libya is limited, but it nevertheless raises questions about what happens to the two other wars that it is waging, especially in Afghanistan. The last time Washington took the eye off the ball in Afghanistan was in 2003 when it launched the Iraq war and then got so bogged down there that a low level and sporadic Taliban resistance in southern Afghanistan grew into a full blown insurgency from which it is still trying to extricate itself.

The question then is will the U.S. attention again shift away from Afghanistan and to Libya  and indeed other African and Middle East countries where revolts  against decades of authoritarian rule are gaining ground, and unsettling every strategic calculation.   Already U.S. Republicans are saying they are concerned that U.S. forces may be getting drawn into a costly, long-running operation in Libya that lacks clear goals.  If it ends in a stalemate – a possibility recognized by Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen – how focused can America be on Afghanistan where you can argue that the stakes are arguably less now that al Qaeda has largely been pushed out, and the fight is almost entirely with the Taliban.

Just by way of recap, here’s broadly what happened to Afghanistan when America’s attention and money were drained toward Iraq.  Militant groups reconstituted themselves, more safe havens sprung up, and they were financed by a resurgent opium economy .  Post-war reconstruction was curtailed as blood and treasure was invested in the war in Iraq. In some ways, it was a throwback to another U.S withdrawal from the region when  it almost overnight lost interest following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 after a decade of arming and financing the insurgents against its former Cold War foe

The other unintended consequence of the U.S. military action in Libya is the anger it will stoke in countries such as Afghanistan where many see it as an attack on an Islamic nation, the latest of a string of nations so targeted.  Regardless of its good intentions, the intervention will be depicted as aggressive, predatory and anti-Muslim, as Edward N. Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in  the Los Angeles Times.-

Indeed the war may have just become hotter for the troops in Afghanistan, with the Taliban seizing on the intervention in Libya as the latest onslaught in a broader war on Islam. The Taliban in a statement said  the Western intervention was aimed at weakening the Islamic nation and seizing its oil reserves through a full scale invasion. For good measure, the Taliban scolded the Libyans for fighting among themselves and thereby giving an excuse to the West to intervene.

(Photograph of scene at an Afghan army recruitment centre in Kunduz after a suicide attack this month.Reuters/Wahdat.)


What if the Afghanistan war is doomed to end badly anyhow? Perhaps the War Party actually prefers to have the excuse, (and distraction), of a new war elsewhere to cover its failure to get out of a hopeless quagmire on its own.

Posted by Adam_Smith | Report as abusive

With the US’s attentions drawn elsewhere “what happens to Afghanistan?” Nothing happens, the same “nothing” that would happen if the US were to withdraw from Afghanistan in, say, three years. The US’s military presence is scarcely limited to Afghanistan and Iraq. Include Western Pakistan, Libya, with military operatives scattered throughout the Middle East, in Iran, Mexico, probably Venezuela and Colombia, Cuba, of course. The US is our benighted globe’s self-anointed peace-maker

Posted by Blackorpheus | Report as abusive

I don’t trust statements about the Taliban and al Qaeda because these categories are situational (it is the sons and grandsons of the freedom-fighting mujahideen whom the US supported during the Soviet assault who are now the alleged Taliban). As soon as the US withdraws from its short-sighted interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Maghreb countries, etc., the Taliban and al Qaeda are likely to metamorphose back to freedom fighters.

Posted by Blackorpheus | Report as abusive

Mr Karzai is a representative of the Taiban group. What is interestig to note that apparently alqueda and its followers have silently slipped out of the south east asia and have gone back to the Arabian arena, including libya. They must be in the forefront to have the supply of weapons from the CIA!

What a frce, Pashtoons or talibans would have to clean up the mess! The question is what about the USA dream to set up a base in Bagram?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

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